Back to School – A Triggering Time for the Childless


back to school - Childless

by Natasha Hatherall-Shawe


It’s August and it’s a busy and exciting week as for many the kids head back to school. Parents across the globe are both relieved the long holidays are over and excited for the new term ahead, new milestones, growth and new achievements for their littles and well a dose of “normal” after months of little to no schedule. And so of course it’s near time for the back to school photos to start flooding social feeds.


I myself am sitting here bracing myself and gearing myself up for the social sea of “first day” photos and I feel increasingly sick. A digital detox is looking like to the best way to escape what is quite frankly one of the most difficult and triggering of times as a woman childless not by choice.


I know I’m not alone, as today many women and men are finding themselves in this position and will be sitting here feeling all sorts of emotions and just very triggered by what becomes one of the most brutal in your face “no you have no child” times of the year.


For years when I hoped that we would be blessed with a child, I struggled through this time with a half smile and I tried to be positive that well maybe one day it would be me and I’d join this “back to school” club. This went on year after year after year, only it was never any different. Now we’re in that phase of “acceptance” that we’re childless forever and that this will never be a reality for us and it feels even more brutal and raw.


There won’t be any pencil case or backpack buying. No running around desperate to find the right size of uniform anywhere. Definitely, no having to juggle work around shorter orientation days. And also no learning how to plait hair. It’s all just a sea of reminders of the things you’ll never do or have and it’s hard, it’s really hard.


Even if you do digital detox, the reality is that back to school is such a big marketing time now, that it’s hard to not let It smack you in the face one way or another. Every store window is filled with back to school offers of some kind, social media ads run riot, everyone is talking endlessly and well don’t even start me on the increased traffic and fact everyone is “back” and mean business. You can’t escape this time of you try.


I try and console myself, it’s money I don’t have to spend and I have none of the issues and challenges that come with it that my parent friends are dealing with. But who am I kidding? I’d literally kill to be handing over my credit card to pay school fees and complaining about it with my friends. I wish I was sobbing in my car having left my also sobbing child behind with strangers for the first time.


It’s just hard. Did I say that already?


Some years I’ve posted a photo of my fur baby on social with a tongue in cheek message – it feels better for a second or two. But once again, who am I kidding?


I don’t have this conversation with my parent friends as I don’t want them to feel bad for enjoying this special time – far from it as get it and I see what an intense, exciting and scary time it is all round. Whilst also dealing with your my stuff, I’m also mindful of not being the “Negative Nancy” in the party.


The last thing I want is pity for anyone. That’s not why I’m here and definitely not why I’m saying this.


This back-to-school season, do enjoy every moment as I’d never say for a moment don’t, but if you do have a friend who is childless maybe do check in on them and see how they are this week, as I promise they’ll be hanging on for dear life to survive it and they’ll appreciate it.